Origin Of The “Oneness” Doctrine

It is written:

“For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.” (1 John 5:7)

The Bible consistently teaches that God is a Trinity of three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

However, many in our modern day religious world teach what is known as the “oneness” doctrine. This is the belief that God is not three Persons; but rather, He has revealed Himself in three different ways throughout time (sometimes as the Father, sometimes as the Son, and sometimes as the Holy Spirit).

Where did this doctrine originate?

David Bercot, while investigating the writings of the early Christians, has this for us:

“The term “monarchianism” (or, more technically, “modalistic monarchianism”) refers to the belief that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all different modes or revelations of one and the same person. This belief is also known in theological circles as Modalism, Patripassianism, and Sabellianism. In popular use, this belief is generally referred to as “Jesus only” or “oneness” theology….Two of the early teachers of monarchianism were Noetus and Praxeas.”. (David Bercot, A Dictionary Of Early Christian Belief, 17046-17068 (Kindle Edition); Peabody, Massachusetts; Hendrickson Publishers Marketing)

What did the early Christians believe about these beliefs? Bercot lists several quotations from the early church fathers. Notice a few:

“Those persons who declare that the Son is the Father are proved neither to have become acquainted with the Father, nor to know that the Father of the universe has a Son.” (Justin Martyr (c. 160, E), 1.184)

“Some others are secretly introducing another doctrine and have become disciples of one Noetus who was a native of Smyrna and lived not very long ago. . . . He alleged that Christ was the Father Himself and that the Father Himself was born, suffered, and died. Yet, see what pride of heart and what a strange inflated spirit had insinuated themselves into him. From his other actions, then, the proof is already given us that he did not speak with a pure spirit. For he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit is cast out from the holy inheritance. This same Noetus also alleged that he was himself Moses and that Aaron was his brother. When the blessed presbyters heard this, they summoned him before the church and examined him. . . . But he stood out against them, saying, “What evil, then, am I doing in glorifying Christ?” And the presbyters replied to him, “We too know in truth one God; we know Christ.” . . . Then, after examining him, they expelled him from the church. And he was carried to such a pitch of pride, that he established a sect.” (Hippolytus (c. 205, W), 5.223.)

“We have been already able to show that the Father and the Son are two—not only by the mention of their individual names as Father and Son, but also by the fact that He who delivered up the kingdom, and He to whom it is delivered up . . . must necessarily be two different Beings. But since the Monarchians will have the two to be but one (so that the Father is deemed to be the same as the Son), it is only right that the whole question respecting the Son should be examined.” (Tertullian (c. 213, W), 3.600)

“The Father is distinct from the Son, being greater than the Son, inasmuch as He who begets is one, and He who is begotten is another. Likewise, He who sends is one, and He who is sent is another. He, again, who makes is one, and He through whom the thing is made is another.” (Tertullian (c. 213, W), 3.604)

Clearly, the “oneness” doctrine did not have its’ origin in the teaching of the Word of God, but in heretics who sprang up much later then the Apostles of Jesus who attempted to bring together forms of paganism with Christianity. It is a teaching which should clearly be rejected.

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